Driving on a Suspended or Revoked License

Penalties for the charge of driving with a suspended or revoked license can include fines and jail time, with increased sentences for repeat offenders.

Related Ads

Talk to a Criminal Defense Lawyer

Enter Your Zip Code to Connect with a Lawyer Serving Your Area

searchbox small

In every state, drivers who have been convicted of specified driving violations and other offenses may have their driving privileges suspended or revoked, in addition to other consequences. When the underlying offense is driving-related, the suspension is intended as a way to provide for safety on the public roads. When the triggering offense is not driving-related, the rationale is more indirect: suspending a driver’s license for a parent who owes child support is a powerful way to encourage payment. Click here to find the laws in your state.

Police may not stop you just because they suspect you're driving without a valid license. For more information, see Driving Without a License: Presenting Proof of a Valid License.

Reasons for License Suspension or Revocation

Suspensions or revocations are common for highway-related offenses, such as driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol; and for other driving violations involving reckless behavior, such as speeding, racing, and hit-and-run. Suspensions are particularly likely for drivers who are persistent violators, who have amassed a minimum number of “points” against their licenses, and who have committed a felony using a vehicle. Some states allow suspension for any driving activity that would justify a refusal to issue the license in the first place.

Motorists who have caused an accident and who have no insurance or other financial ability to cover damage and injuries may also face license suspensions. Suspension is also commonly a consequence of failing to pay child support. Some states allow for suspension on the grounds of a driver’s disability, including visual impairment, epilepsy, age, and diabetes.

Mechanics of Suspension or Revocation

Depending on the state, either courts or state agencies (such as departments of motor vehicles) have the power to suspend or revoke licenses. Some state agencies have wide latitude in deciding whether to suspend, with the authority to do so when, in their opinion, enabling the driver to continue to drive will compromise public safety.

Suspension and Bankruptcy

Some drivers have challenged the continuing validity of their license suspensions after they have filed for bankruptcy. In a typical scenario, a driver who is at fault in an auto accident fails to pay a money judgment to the victim, and has her license suspended as a result. The driver files for bankruptcy, which wipes out the debt, then seeks reinstatement of the license on the grounds that the underlying judgment, which triggered the suspension, is now gone. Courts are split on the outcome—some will reinstate the license, others will not.

Occupational and Ignition Interlock Restricted Licenses

Under certain circumstances, drivers whose licenses have been suspended or revoked can apply for restricted licenses, which allow them to drive during the period of suspension or revocation.

Occupational restricted licenses typically allow drivers to drive to work, school, community service, or certain other activities, with restrictions including the times of day, days of week, and areas to which they may drive.

Drivers whose licenses have been suspended or revoked for certain alcohol or drug-related offenses can apply for ignition interlock restricted licenses.  These licenses permit them to drive if they use an ignition interlock device, which tests breath for alcohol consumption, installed in their car.   

Conditions for Reinstatement

When a license is suspended, it will remain so for a specified period of time.  Similarly, when a license is revoked, the driver will be barred from applying for a new license for a certain period of time. In addition to waiting through the time period, drivers typically must fulfill certain conditions before the license is reinstated or before they are eligible to apply for a new license. Conditions for reinstatement are often in addition to any jail time or fines. Typical conditions include:

  • participation in drug or alcohol evaluation and treatment
  • proof of financial responsibility (such as liability insurance or proof of financial ability)
  • payment of child support in arrears, and
  • payment of a reinstatement fee.

In some states, drivers with suspended licenses who fulfill the reinstatement conditions and have waited the specified amount of time before commencing driving may do so without an official okay from either the court or a regulating agency. In other states, drivers must wait for the court or agency to acknowledge the driver’s successful completion, at which time the court will take steps to affirmatively reinstate the license.  Drivers who have had a license revoked must reapply for a new license.

Challenging Conditions for Reinstatement

Courts generally agree that although driving is a privilege and not a right, it is also a necessary part of many peoples’ lives, enabling them to get to work and school. Because driving is so crucial, the state should not arbitrarily deny a person’s right to the restoration of his license. Many suspension laws’ conditions for reinstatement have been challenged as exceeding the police power of the state, violating due process, and being unconstitutionally vague. In most instances, the statutes have been upheld against these challenges.

Motorists who believe that a condition for reinstatement is unconstitutional or otherwise unlawful must challenge the condition at the time the license is suspended. If they wait until they are caught while driving on the suspended license and seek to raise the illegality of the condition for reinstatement at the ensuing hearing or trial, courts will usually deny them this opportunity.

Penalties

Drivers sometimes begin driving while their license is still suspended or revoked (and without a valid restricted license). Doing so results in a charge of driving with a suspended or revoked license. Penalties can include fines and jail time, with increased sentences for repeat offenders.

Sometimes drivers begin driving after the suspension period has expired, but before they have completed any additional conditions, like the ones described above. When that happens, courts react in one of two ways:

  • the license continues to be suspended until the conditions are met, which means that the driver will be guilty of driving on a suspended license, or
  • the driver will be guilty of driving without a valid license.

The distinction noted above can be significant, because the penalties for driving on a suspended license versus driving without a valid license are likely to be different.

State Specific Laws

The chart below sumarizes how your state penalizes driving on a suspended license. Click the link for any state to be taken to an in-depth article that explains the system for that state in detail.

State

Penalties At-A-Glance

Alabama Driving with a license that is suspended or revoked is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine between $100 and $500 and up to 180 days in jail. In addition to the fine and other costs, Alabama imposes an additional $50 penalty. (Ala. Code § 32-6-19.) At the discretion of the Director of Public Safety, the driver’s license may be revoked for an additional six months.
Alaska If you drive with a suspended, revoked, or canceled license, you may be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. (Alaska Stat. § 28.15.291.) The maximum sentence for a Class A misdemeanor is one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. (Alaska Stat. § 28.55.135.)
Arizona Driving while your license is revoked or suspended is a crime. As a Class 1 misdemeanor, it is punishable by a maximum of six months in jail and a maximum fine of $2,500. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. §§ 28-3473, 13-802, 13-707.) If you are caught driving with a suspended or revoked license, police may impound your vehicle. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 28-3511(A).)
Arkansas The offense is a misdemeanor that carries a minimum sentence of two days in jail and a maximum sentence of six months in jail. (Ark. Code § 27-16-303.) In addition, you may be fined up to $500 and be given an extended period of suspension or revocation. (Ark. Code § 27-16-303.)
California Driving with a suspended or revoked license is a misdemeanor. (Cal. Veh. Code § 40000.11.)  Your sentence may depend on whether you have previous convictions for driving after suspension or revocation.
In many cases, the maximum penalty is six months in jail and a fine of not more than $500. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 42-2-138(1)(a).) If you have a second or subsequent conviction within five years, you may not be eligible for a driver’s license for three years. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 42-2-138(1)(b).)
Connecticut You may face criminal charges if you drive while your license is suspended or revoked. Typically, but not always, the charge will be a misdemeanor. (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 53a-24(b), 53a-26(a).)
Delaware Driving with a suspended or revoked license is a misdemeanor. (Del. Code tit. 21 § 4202.) If you drive while your license is suspended or revoked, you could face fines, jail time, or other penalties. Your sentence may depend on the reason for your suspension or revocation and the number of previous offenses.
D.C. If you drive while your license is suspended or revoked, you could be charged with a crime. (D.C. Code § 50-2302.02.) The maximum sentence for a conviction is  a fine of $5,000, and up to one year in jail. (D.C. Code § 50-1403.01(e).)
Florida Your first conviction may be a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum fine of $500 and a maximum of 60 days in jail. (Fla. Stat. §§ 322.24(2)(a), 775.082(4)(b), 775.083(e).) Your second conviction may be a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum $1,000 fine and a maximum of one year in jail. (Fla. Stat. §§ 322.24(2)(a), 775.083(d), 775.082(4)(a).)
Georgia Driving while under suspension or revocation is a crime. (Georgia Code § 40-5-58.) If convicted, your sentence may depend on whether you have previous convictions within five years and other factors.
Hawaii You should not drive while your license is suspended or revoked. If you do, you may be charged with a misdemeanor. (Haw. Rev. Stat. § 701-107.)  In certain situations, the maximum penalty for a conviction is a fine of up to $1,000, and up to 30 days in jail. (Haw. Rev. Stat. 286-136(a).)
Idaho If you drive while your license is suspended or revoked, you may be charged with a misdemeanor. (Idaho Code § 18-8001(1).) If you are convicted, your sentence may depend in part on whether you have previous convictions for driving after suspension or revocation.
You may be charged with a petty offense, a Class A misdemeanor, or a felony, depending on the circumstances of your charge. Your charge may be more serious if you have previous convictions for driving after suspension or revocation, or if your license was suspended or revoked for certain reasons.
Indiana In many situations, your first charge for driving after suspension or revocation may be a Class A infraction. (Ind. Code § 9-24-19-1.) A Class A infraction carries a fine of up $10,000. (Ind. Code § 34-28-5-4.)
Iowa Driving after suspension or revocation may be charged as a simple misdemeanor or serious misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances. (Iowa Code §§ 321.218(1), 321J.21)
Kansas For a first offense, you may be charged with a class B nonperson misdemeanor. (Kan. Stat. § 8-262(a)(1).) The maximum penalty for this charge is six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. (Kan. Stat. § 21-4502(1)(b), § 21-4503(c)(2).) For a second or subsequent offenses, you may be charged with a class A nonperson misdemeanor. The maximum sentence for this type of charge is one year in jail and a $2,500 fine. (Kan. Stat. ç 21-4502(1)(a), § 21-4503(c)(1).)
Kentucky In many situations, you may be charged with a Class B misdemeanor. (Ky. Rev. Stat. § 186.990(3). The maximum sentence for a Class B misdemeanor includes a fine of $250 and up to 90 days in jail. (Ky. Rev. Stat. § 532.090(2), § 534.040 (2)(b).)
Louisiana If you are charged, your sentence may depend in part on the kind of license that you had and whether you have previous convictions for driving on a suspended or revoked license.
Maine If you are charged with a crime for driving on a suspended or revoked license, you may be subject to minimum penalties. In many situations, you may receive a minimum $250 fine for a first offense, and a minimum $500 fine for subsequent offenses. (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 29-A § 2412-A(3)(B.)
Maryland The maximum jail sentence for a conviction depends on the reason for the crime and whether you have prior convictions for driving on a suspended license. In certain situations, the maximum sentence may be  two months incarceration and  a $500 fine. (Md. Code, Transp. § 27-101(c)(13-14).)
Massachusetts For a first offense, your sentence may involve a maximum of 10 days in jail and a fine between $500 and $1,000. (Mass. Gen. laws ch. 90, § 23.) For a subsequent offense, your sentence may involve a jail sentence between 60 days and one year. (Mass. Gen. laws ch. 90, § 23.)
Michigan In many cases, you may be charged with a misdemeanor. The maximum sentence depends on whether you have prior convictions for operating with a suspended or revoked license.
Minnesota If your license was suspended or revoked, you may be charged with a misdemeanor (Minn. Stat. § 171.24 subdivs. 1-2. The maximum penalty for a misdemeanor is a fine of $1,000 and 90 days in jail. (Minn. Stat. § 609.03(3).)
Mississippi If you drive while your license is suspended or revoked, you may be charged with a misdemeanor. The maximum sentence for this crime may involve: between two days and six months in jail, and a fine between $200 and $500. (Miss. Code § 63-1-57.)
Missouri If you drive while your license is revoked, you could be charged with a class A misdemeanor. (Mo. Rev. Stat. § 302.340, § 302.321(2).) The maximum penalty may involve a $1,000 fine and up to one year in jail. (Mo. Rev. Stat. § 560.016(1)(1), § 558.011(1)(5).)
If you are convicted, you may sentenced to: between two days and six months in jail, and a fine up to $500. (Mont. Code. Ann. § 61-5-212(b)(i).)
Nebraska You may be charged with a Class II misdemeanor for certain driving after revocation offenses. (Neb. Rev. Stat. § 60-4,108(1).) The maximum penalty for a Class II misdemeanor is a $1,000 fine and six months in jail. (Neb. Rev. Stat. § 28-106(1).) If you are convicted of a Class II misdemeanor for driving after revocation, the penalty may involve revocation for another year, if the conviction is your first. (Neb. Rev. Stat. § 60-4,108(1)(a).) For a second or subsequent driving after revocation charge, your license may be revoked for an additional two years. (Neb. Rev. Stat. § 60-4,108(1)(b).)
Nevada You may be charged with a misdemeanor.  (Nev. Rev. Stat. § 483.560(1).) A misdemeanor may involve a maximum penalty of a $1,000 fine and six months in jail. (Nev. Rev. Stat. § 193.150.)
New Hampshire Driving after suspension or revocation may be considered a violation. (N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. 263.64(VII).) A violation is not a crime. (N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 625:9(II)(b).) If you are given a violation for driving after suspension or revocation, you may given a minimum fine of: $250 for a first offense, and $500 for a second or subsequent offense. (N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 263.64(VII).)
New Jersey For a first offense, you may be fined $500. (N.J. Stat. § 39:3-40(a).) For a second offense, you may be fined $750 and given a jail sentence between one and five days. (N.J. Stat. § 39:3-40(b).) For a third offense, you may be fined $1,000 and given a jail sentence of 10 days. (N.J. Stat. § 39:3-40(c).)
New Mexico Driving while your license is suspended or revoked is a misdemeanor. Your sentence may involve: 4 days to one year in jail or an alternative sentencing program, and a fine of up to $1,000. (N.M. Stat. § 66-5-39(A).)
New York In many situations, you may be charged with third-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle. (N.Y. Veh. & Traf. Law § 511(1)(a).) The charge is a misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum of: a fine between $200 and $500, and 30 days in jail. (N.Y. Veh. & Traf. Law § 511(1)(b).)
North Carolina Your sentence may involve a fine and possibly jail time. The court decides the amount of fine for a Class 1 misdemeanor. (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-1340.23(b).) A jail sentence may depend whether you have previous convictions for driving after suspension or revocation.
North Dakota You may be charged with a Class B misdemeanor for your first, second or third offense within a five-year period. (N.D. Cent. Code § 39-06-42(1).) The maximum penalty for a Class B misdemeanor is 30 days in jail, and a $1,000 fine. (N.D. Cent. Code § 2.1-32(6).)
Ohio You may be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor if you drive while your license is suspended or revoked. (Ohio Rev. Code § 4510.11.) The maximum sentence for a first-degree misdemeanor may involve: 180 days in jail, and a maximum $1,000 fine. (Ohio Rev. Code § 4510.11, § 2929.28(A)(2).)
Oklahoma If you drive while your license is suspended or revoked, you could be charged with a misdemeanor. (Okla. Stat. tit. 47, § 6-303.)  The sentence may depend whether you have previous convictions. Your sentence may involve: a fine between $100 and $500 for a first conviction and a fine $200 and $750  for a second conviction.
Oregon In many situations, you may be charged with a Class A traffic violation. (Or. Rev. Stat. § 811.175(4).) A Class A violation may involve fines or other penalties, but not incarceration. (Or. Rev. Stat. § 153.018(1). The maximum fine for a Class A traffic violation is $720. (Or. Rev. Stat. § 153.018(2)(a).)
Pennsylvania You may be charged with a summary offense, or in some circumstances a more serious crime. In certain circumstances for a summary offense, you may be fined $200. (75 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 1543(a).)
If you drive while your license is suspended or revoked, you may be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances. (R.I. Gen. Laws § 31-11-18(a).) In general, for a first offense, you sentence may involve: a fine between $250 and $500, and up to 30 days in jail. (R.I. Gen. laws § 31-11-18(c).)
South Carolina You may be charged with a misdemeanor if you drive while your license is suspended or revoked. (S.C. Code § 56-1-500.) For a first offense, the maximum sentence may involve: a $300 fine, and 30 days in jail. (S.C. Code § 56-1-460(A)(1)(a).)
South Dakota If your license was suspended, you may be charged with a Class 2 misdemeanor. (S.D. Codified Laws § 32-12-65(2). The maximum sentence for a Class 2 misdemeanor may involve: 30 days in jail, and a $500 fine. (S.D. Codified Laws § 22-6-2-(2).)
Tennessee You may be charged with a Class B misdemeanor for a first offense. (Tenn. Code. § 55-50-504(a)(1).) In general, the maximum penalty for a Class B misdemeanor is: six months in jail, and a $500 fine. (Tenn. Code. § 40-35-111(e)(2).)
Texas If you drive while your license is suspended or revoked, you could be charged with a Class C misdemeanor, or in certain circumstances, more serious charges. (Texas Transp. Code Ann. § 521.457(e).) The maximum penalty in general for a Class C misdemeanor is a $500 fine. (Texas Penal Code § 12.23.)
Utah In many cases, you may be charged with a Class C misdemeanor. (Utah Code § 53-3-227(2).) The maximum penalty for a Class C misdemeanor may involve: up to 90 days in jail, and a $750 fine (Utah Code § 76-3-204(2), § 76-3-301(1)(e).)
Vermont In many circumstances, you may be charged with a civil traffic violation. A civil traffic violation does not involve jail time. (Vt. Stat. tit. 23, § 676.) You may be charged with a misdemeanor if your license was suspended in certain circumstances. (Vt. Stat. tit. 13, § 1.)
Virginia You may be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor if you drive while your license is suspended or revoked. (Va. Code § 46.2-301(C).) The maximum penalty for a Class 1 misdemeanor is: up to 12 months in jail, and a $2,500 fine. (Va. Code § 18.2-11(a).)
Washington Depending on the circumstances, you may be charged with a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor if you drive while your license is suspended or revoked. The level of charge will depend on the specific reason your license was suspended or revoked.
West Virginia If you drive while your license is suspended or revoked, you could be charged with a misdemeanor. In many circumstances, your sentence may involve: for a first or second offense, a fine between $100 and $500, or for a third or subsequent offense, a fine between $150 and $500 and between 30 days and 90 days in jail. (W. Va. Code § 174B-4-3(a).)
Wisconsin Driving while your license is suspended or revoked is illegal. In certain situations, you may be required to forfeit money. (Wis. Stat. § 939.12.) In other situations, you may be charged with a crime. (Wis. Stat. § 939.12.)
Wyoming
If you drive while your license is suspended or revoked, you could be charged with a misdemeanor. (Wyo. Stat. § 31-7-134(a).) In general, the maximum sentence for a misdemeanor is a fine up to $750, and up to six months in jail. (Wyo. Stat. § 31-7-134(a).

Getting A Lawyer For A Suspended License

Many complictions can potentially arise when charged with any type of driving violation. To help allievate some of these problems, it is usually best to contact a qualified lawyer. Get a free case evaluation from an experienced lawyer in your area.

by: , Attorney

Talk to a Defense Lawyer

Charged with a crime? Start here to find a lawyer.
HOW IT WORKS
how it works 1
Briefly tell us about your case
how it works 2
Provide your contact information
how it works 1
Choose attorneys to contact you
LA-NOLO2:DRU.1.6.1.20140626.27175